State of the Liga: End Game

It’s the last week of the season and that means another State of the Liga for all of you to digest as you wait pensively for the kickoff on Sunday (at 1pmEST). I’ve been rather delinquent with my State of the Liga’s this year–this is my 4th one and first since Christmas Day–but fear not, for there is much to discuss. It is, after all, the end of times and we’ve got to gently wrap up this epic league season with some sort of awesomeness, right?

Remember back when I was making season predictions? I don’t either. Basically, I totally nailed everything. Don’t even bother clicking that link I stupidly included for you so that you could actually click it and then come back and talk smack to me about how stupid I am. Just trust me that I totally nailed where everyone would end up. It would be fairly hilariously awesome if Xerez ended up 17th and surviving at the expense of Tenerife simply because of how much crap I took for predicting just that, but I don’t see it as particularly likely even if Xerez wins at Osasuna.

Here are the current standings:

Barcelona 96pts
Real Madrid 95
Valencia 68
Sevilla 60
Mallorca 59
Getafe 55
Villarreal 55
Athletic Bilbao 51
Atletico Madrid 49
Deportivo 47
Espanyol 44
Osasuna 42
Almeria 42
Sporting Gijon 40
Zaragoza 40
Valladolid 36
Racing Santander 36
Malaga 36
Tenerife 36
Xerez 33

This weekend’s matchups are:

Athletic Bilbao-Depor
Atletico Madrid-Getafe
Real Zaragoza-Villarreal
Málaga-Real Madrid

Of all of those matches, only Athletic Bilbao – Depor has no real bearing on the final outcome of the table. No matter who wins (or doesn’t win) that match, they both end up out of Europe, but also safe from relegation. All of the other matches have something to do with final places. That’s pretty exciting.

Despite their worse goal difference, Valladolid and Racing are both ahead of Málaga due to head-to-head tiebreakers going in their favor. Xerez, down at the bottom, owns the tiebreaker against Málaga, Valladolid, and Tenerife, but not against Racing. Regardless, before that comes into play, they must beat Osasuna this weekend; fortunately for Xerez, Osasuna has nothing to play for because they assured themselves of survival a couple of weeks ago. Even if they win, though, Xerez will need a lot of help to survive. Tenerife, Malaga, and Valladolid must all lose in order for Xerez to survive. A draw amongst any of those teams and Xerez goes down.* Their chances hang, in essence, on them beating Osasuna and Tenerife losing at Valencia, who also have nothing to play for because they’ve assured themselves of third place and cannot go up to 2nd.

Tenerife can survive by drawing against Valencia if 2 of Valladolid, Málaga, and Racing lose. Not an easy hill to climb, of course, despite my thoughts that both Valladolid and Málaga will lose to their top 2 rivals. A win doesn’t necessarily ensure survival for Tenerife, but it obviously makes it easier: some combo of Valladolid, Malaga, and Racing needs to draw or lose. Obviously their abysmal away record (1W-3D-14L, 14GF 44gA) is working hard against them, but if there was ever a week for a second away win, it’s this one. If they lose, they’re sunk, regardless of other outcomes.

Málaga need a draw if Racing, Valladolid, and Tenerife all lose, but would also survive if they win and Racing and Valladolid do not win. A win would automatically ensure safety for Racing and Valladolid while a draw would mean they require 2 of Málaga, Tenerife, and Racing/Valladolid to lose.

In the end, I expect Xerez, Tenerife, and Málaga to go down simply because they’re lose, but if Xerez can pull of a victory, they’ll stay up and Valladolid will go down instead. Again, the math is insane at this point, but with both Málaga and Valladolid slated to lose, that makes it a bit easier for everyone else to survive.

The “meaningless zone” stretches from Zaragoza at 40pts and in 15th place all the way up to Athletic Bilbao at 51pts and in 8th. Those 8 teams have nothing to play for, really, having ensured survival and having no hope of getting to the European places. Still, playing for pride is important and I don’t think many of them will lay down and die in front of their opponents. Zaragoza, who host Villarreal, will be expected to put up a fight, at least by Getafe, who themselves are playing Atletico Madrid, which Villarreal will expect to show up despite their hangover from the Europa League final and preparations for next Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final. So expect Getafe to win that one despite it being a “derbi” match in the Calderon.

Sporting Gijon plays Racing, as mentioned before, while Almeria hosts Sevilla. Mallorca will be hoping that Almeria show up something big, especially considering that Sevilla might also have their eyes on Wednesday’s CdR final. Osasuna plays on Sunday against Xerez and might or might not show up, but only those lower than them care at all about that, but I do think they’ll end up crushing Xerez’s survival attempt.

Espanyol, somehow in 11th with 44pts, travel to Mallorca. The pericos have an absolutely balls-out horrendous away record: 2W-5D-11L (9GA, 27GF). Mallorca will be hoping that their lack of motivation and their lack of away form will lead to a loss. Sevilla will be hoping that Espanyol lends them a hand by kicking Mallorca off the park.

Depor and Athletic Bilbao’s match is 100% meaningless. Yay.

As I mentioned, Villarreal, sitting in 7th place, tied on points with 6th-place Getafe but below them thanks to head-to-head and goal difference, need to beat Zaragoza while Getafe draw or lose to Atleti. Neither team can make the Champions League (or catch Mallorca in 5th, for that matter), so there’s only this European spot left for them. Interestingly, Atleti’s victory in the Europa League final and their potential victory in the CdR final could give both Villarreal and Getafe European spots, unless the Fair Play Table, which has Almeria above both of them, dictates that Almeria gets in instead. Maybe Málaga should get to go…

Getafe needs to win or for Villarreal to lose to ensure a Europa League spot while a draw couple with a Villarreal loss or draw would also get them in. Naturally they’ll be gunning for Atleti the whole 90 minutes to try and get the 3 points and continue to control their own destiny rather than have to hope that Villarreal squanders their opportunity.

Mallorca, then, in 5th, 1 solitary point behind Sevilla, needs to win. A draw for Mallorca and a loss for Sevilla sees Sevilla into the Champions League because of their superior head-to-head record (2-0, 1-3), so Mallorca must defeat Espanyol and have Sevilla draw or lose to Almeria. I actually think that could happen and I, for one, am rooting for it. I want Mallorca’s season, which has been phenomenal, to be rewarded with a Champions League spot. Sevilla, while they’re fun and they deserve it to a certain extent as well, hasn’t overcome as many financial hurdles and have had much better talent in the squad throughout the year. So let’s go Barralets!

Valencia has nothing to play for, but do host Tenerife, which should mean a win for Los Che, but if last week (2-0 loss at Villarreal) was any indication, they’re just content to phone it in and David Villa is content to wait for the transfer cash to roll in.  Tenerife might just get that second win, but the talent on hand at Valencia is probably too much for them in the end, despite their showing at the Camp Nou where they bagged a goal and were drawing 1-1 at one point.

Then there’s the top two. There’s not much to say other than win or go home. Barça sits at 96 points, Real Madrid at 95. If you draw, you’re out because your opponent will win. Barça host Valladolid while RM visit Málaga, but don’t think they will be easy matches. All 4 clubs have something to fight for and fight for it they will. Valladolid has Javier Clemente, who knows Pep, but also commands a much less talented squad. Still, they’ve only lost once since Clemente, known as the master of the 0-0 draw, took over 7 matches ago. They’ve defeated Sevilla and Racing both 2-1 at home and Sporting Gijon 0-2 away, while losing 3-1 away to Atleti, and drawing at nil @Tenerife, @Málaga, and vs Getafe.

Madrid face off against Málaga, who have not won since March 21 and don’t look like winning now. They did, however, draw 6 of those 10 matches, which is good news if you’re a Barça fan. I still think that both Barça and Real Madrid will win and do so without too many problems, but you never know in this crazy game and it takes 90 minutes of hard work to come out with a title. Much more on that, of course, in the preview.

So how have my season opening predictions gone?

Predicted Actual
Barelona Barcelona
Real Madrid Real Madrid
Sevilla Valencia
Atletico Madrid Sevilla
Valencia Mallorca
Villarreal Getafe
Malaga Villarreal
Deportivo Athletic Bilbao
Mallorca Atletico Madrid
Getafe Deportivo
Racing Espanyol
Espanyol Osasuna
Real Zaragoza Almeria
Athletic Bilbao Sporting Gijon
Almeria Zaragoza
Xerez Valladolid
Valladolid Racing Santander
Osasuna Malaga
Sporting Gijon Tenerife
Tenerife Xerez

I don’t think I’ve done all that badly, especially considering the flak I got for putting Xerez above Tenerife and just before the last matchday of the season, I could turn out to exactly right in Xerez and Tenerife’s final positions. Yeah, sure, I obviously really blew the Málaga and Atleti predictions, but whatever, so did most everyone else, especially with that latter one. I’ll do the final update to the Fantasy and Prediction challenges (as well as draw some people some awesome MS Paint art and write some epic poems) next week when the dust has settled.

In Segunda news, FC Cartagena is currently in 3rd (behind Real Sociedad and Levante) and are in line for a promotion spot. That’s interesting mainly because the club was founded in 1995 and was just promoted to the Segunda this season. Whoa. They still have their work cut out for them, though, with 4 matches to go. If they do make it, they probably won’t hold on to him, but they could have 36-year old Pascal Cygan as their centerback. That would be wacky.

*If all 4 of Racing, Valladolid, Málaga, and Tenerife lose, I’m not sure where Xerez ends up because, as I said, they own the tiebreakers against Valladolid, Málaga, and Tenerife, but not against Racing. Problem is, Valladolid owns the tiebreaker against Racing, so they couldn’t end up below them, but Racing can’t end up below Xerez. RFEF’s Regulations of the Game (pdf) state on page 174 that if more than 2 clubs are tied on points, you determine who goes ahead first by points between those particular teams (in this case 5 teams). That would put Xerez at the top with 12pts from the 8 matches and Racing in second with 11pts. So then Málaga, Tenerife, and Valladolid would all go down–I think in that order from top to bottom.

Obviously the math changes a bit as teams win or draw (thus reducing who is tied at 36pts), so mainly what Xerez has to do is win and hope everyone else loses. Racing drawing or defeating Sporting I think would be a disaster for Xerez, but I’m not entirely sure. Note: I could be completely wrong–please read the section in question and let me know if I’m way off base with my interpretation.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. If Xerex avoid relegation it will be a miracle.

    Interestingly Victor Sanchez, our de facto loan to Xerex has appeared in 21 league games, scoring twice. Also interesting is that last season he appeared in seven games for us, more than Dos Santos has appeared this season.

    It’s too bad he’s not a better player, he’s exactly the type of player we need – someone who can play across the back line and anywhere in the midfield.

    1. But you put it exactly right: he’s not a better player. So we don’t need him.

      I’m sad too, though, that he couldn’t cut it, but like Marc Crosas, there was no room for him despite his obvious talents. I was a fan of VicSan throughout his time at FCB, but in the end it was the right move to offload him.

      And for those of you wondering what is meant by “de facto loan”, it’s that VicSan was sold for about €1m and we have a repurchase option for the same amount, meaning he would have been, in effect, loaned.

    2. you’ve got to remember that johnny dos santos was playing for the THIRD team last year. that he played any games this season is insane. if he were to play more than 3 games for the senior team he’d have to stay up permanently. i’m thinking peppy had bojan’s situation in mind when selecting or not selecting him.

  2. please please no more 06/07…no mas…

    how do you americans watch barca matches?
    do you all have dvd-recorders at home?

    1. The matches are broadcast on either GolTV or ESPN Deportes/ESPNHD. I often go to a bar to watch the matches, but also DVR them, yes.

      This Sunday the match will be on ESPN2HD, for instance, which most households get if they have cable and which all bars get.

      Otherwise we can watch on internet streams.

    2. thanks isaiah.
      but let’s say if you are on the westside(pac’s side :p ), LA, it’s 9 hours behind barcelona. so let’s say the match is played at 8pm, so you guys will leave work and visit a bar at 11am? are the bars even open at that time?and what about work?
      and NY, is 6 hours behind, so the match will be at 1pm.
      like in my case, the matches are around 2am-5am. so it’s still ok as i dont have to miss class or work. i just need to have one sleepless day.

    3. I live in the West Coast (San Diego)
      It depends on the Bar, you just have to find the right one.
      Champion’s League matches are at 11:45am for us, and there are 4-5 bars that open for it.
      There’s two bars that open at 6 am for Chelsea and Manchester’s sunday morning games.
      As far as Barcelona’s League macthes, they are ussually at 11am, 12pm, or 1pm. It helps working part time i suppose. (who needs money if you can’t watch Barca!)
      oh, and having a DVR does help, although I don’t like to watch matches when they are not live.

    4. Well most games are on the weekends, so it doesn’t matter.

      But for the Copa, and especially the CL games, I just take a longer lunch break during the last hour or so of the game.

  3. “I want Mallorca’s season, which has been phenomenal, to be rewarded with a Champions League spot. Sevilla, while they’re fun and they deserve it to a certain extent as well, hasn’t overcome as many financial hurdles and have had much better talent in the squad throughout the year. So let’s go Barralets!”

    i’m torn between what you said & what stannard said in his last week’s column in regards to mallorca )v:

    “Having Mallorca in next season’s Champions League would be a complete waste of time. The Balearic side would make Atlético’s three point haul from this season look heroic in comparison.
    Borderline bankrupt, about to lose coach Gregorio Manzano and set to sell what few decent players they have left over the summer (again), it would be a miracle if Mallorca even made it past the qualifying round.”

    1. seriously. but according to that mvp free agent lebron james & the cavaliers should be in the next round of the playoffs, too.

    2. no need to jump to another sport miguel.
      thong boy said they will do better than us, which means more than 6

    3. what if sevilla were to make it to the champions league & hired manzano as their coach? hmmm? anyone?

  4. ouch!!!!


    1. I stopped reading when I reached here:

      “He has cost almost £100million in transfer fees” 😀

      I dont think wht followed will be more “insightfull” than that. And I no more have the patience of old days to digest no-sense blogging.

    2. The guy in the column echoed my feelings on Zlatan, although, not to that extent. But I am disappointed in him. I am sure he will do another year, but unless he comes up big in pre-season he is likely to see a lot of the bench and even a winter transfer.

  5. Conspiracy theories abound before the final round in La Liga..


    (h/t – RM offside)

  6. i got a good idea for how we could get either silva or villa. lets trade them laporta. think it about it, hes done a pretty good jobs round these parts in the past 5 years or so. he could do them wonders over there.

    its kinda like how in semi-pro they get woody for trading the other team a laundry machine.

  7. finally, after an appeal, an appeal of an appeal, and possibly an appeal of an appeal of an appeal (or at least a request to postpone the suspension), xavi absolutely will not play. and iniesta says it is unlikely he will start. and keita has been training separately for most of the week due to an achilles problem sustained against sevilla

    alves puyol pique abidal

    toure thiago

    messi pedro


    1. i think keita and iniesta will both feature, but possibly for some of the game we will have neither.

  8. Of all of those matches, only Athletic Bilbao – Depor has no real bearing on the final outcome of the table. No matter who wins (or doesn’t win) that match, they both end up out of Europe, but also safe from relegation. All of the other matches have something to do with final places. That’s pretty exciting.

    The dynamics in La Liga this season have been intense but in a very polarizing fashion. It’s as if two sets of intense competition have broken out at the extremes.

    At the top is the battle for the trophy which of course has been historic in it’s intensity and narrowness. At the bottom is a second intense competition to avoid relegation.

    So in a certain way the matches this weekend that involving Barca vs. Valladolid and RM vs. Malaga represent the convergence of those to very different, yet fierce competitions. Very interesting way to end a season in which the league split into extremes.

    Barca is very fortunate that the Valladolid match is the last of the season rather than the Sevilla match. The squad will be very thin at midfield.

    Valladolid isn’t particularly good – but the best way to beat a team like that is to get ahead quickly to take away any hope they might have. Given that I’d expect Pep to want to press and be very aggressive early on with runs from the back line. Let’s hope they score early because playing in that style is very exhausting and the squad is going to be hard pressed to keep it up. Let’s not turn this into a slog or a scoreless affair deep into the first half.

    Matches are often decided by lapses of concentration and attention. We’ve seen this from the Barca backline at times this season (including the match vs. Sevilla). The squad looks fatigued at times and that’s adding pressure to the decision making required in real time.

  9. Ramzi doesn’t have the ego to post his most excellent comment in the previous thread, nor should he. But go back and re-read it. It’s the second-to-last post, thus keeping him from getting Hectored. 😀

    We need to have some context here. Even if we somehow screw the pooch on Sunday, this has still been a successful Liga season. The biggest problem is context.

    –Compared to 6 trophies 2 (potentially Liga and SuperCopa) is shite.

    You’re kidding, right? Chelsea’s club and supporters are sliding off the chairs in giddy rapture. We’re standing here with our arms crossed, saying “JUST the Liga? Hmph!”

    –Ibrahimovic is a bust/disappointment.

    Yes. Spot on. Riiiight!. 😀

    Find me another club whose not-even-main striker has 20+ goals and 8 or 9 assists. There aren’t many. Now find me another club whose not-even-main striker came to it with a broken hand, and needing to learn a very difficult system.

    Now, in the context of the outsized expectations attendant to his size and transfer fee, Ibrahimovic has been a bust. But so many said that he wouldn’t score 8,934,223 goals, that instead he would probably get about as many in all competitions as Eto’o got his first year with the club. He ain’t that far off.

    Relax. It’s all going to be fine. Isaiah will post the season-ending KRS (can’t wait for that one), then we can discuss the season and how we did during the run-up to the World Cup.

    But in my opinion (Ramzi is spot on in his analysis) this has been a great season, and Ibrahimovic has done better than expected. Some think that we could have kept doing what we were doing last season. In what world? We already saw the effect of marking Xavi, and how that changed our attack. If we don’t reload our attacking system, adapting to the way teams are playing us, we’re in trouble. Kudos to Guardiola for seeing that, and taking the chance at future glory.

    As for Sunday, I like ballbeav’s lineup more than mine, which puts Messi in the Xavi role and Krkic on the wing, with Pedro! and Ibrahimovic as the other attackers. It’s looking more and more like we’re going to see us some Thiago which, given how much Valladolid will probably attack (while peering out from behind locked arms in their box), will be hardly any.

    And don’t forget about Thiago’s cannon of a shot from distance.

    1. Ramzi’s post in the last thread was very good. A ton of well thought out points.

      One of the constant tensions a systems based team like Barca has to balance is the pressure to make the strengths of the system work better vs. maintenance of diversity in the ways that they team can win. Ramzi points that out well in his points on Villa and Cesc.

      I’m also now understanding with this “Hector’ing” think is…

    2. i felt bad ramzi had written such a great post & gotten hectored that i reponded to his comment, therefore hectoring myself (:

    3. ramzi always comes up with the good stuff.
      but is it the same ramzi from offside?

  10. where is hector? euler reminds me of hector a bit. never seen the two in the same room at the same time.

  11. to me ibra has been a dissapointment by the moment at least, I only recall two actions worthy of a crack … one goal vs madrid and another vs arsenal I think. I also remind that “espaldinha” so that means he didn’t have many memorable actions, I don’t care about the number of goals it’s the “felling” I get form him 😉

  12. valdes
    alves puyi pique abi
    keita busquets yaya
    messi pedro!


  13. i have some questions:

    1) As a Brasil fan, i took a liking to Ramires during the Confed Cup.
    Does anyone with insight have a feeling about him? he is playing in portugal since the tournament which got him noticed. he is an attacking mid, and he reminds me of keita but with brazilian flair.

    2) another question is: are we going to sign someone to back up our RB position for when alves (if ever) needs a rest? who could we look at signing/promoting to that position.

    3) which canteranos will be promoted by pep this season? he seems to promote them two at a time.

    4) is it possible that the reason Busi has played so much more than Yaya this season is because of Iniesta’s injury? with iniesta off the field we are forced to play keita who is not the best at DM so is played as an attacking mid. Like someone said earlier, you dont want two destroyers in the midfield and yaya and keita can essentially cancel each other out. Therefore, he plays busi and keita so that he has two playmakers and a destroyer/water carrier. we have also seen him experiment with yaya at DM and busi and xavi higher up. could this be why yaya plays less and busi plays more and does it also mean that we could see less busi when iniesta is back?

    1. 1 – I like Ramires a lot and he does remind me a lot of Keita. Seeing as Keita is 30 he will eventually need a replacement, but not immediately.

      2 – We need to, expecting Puyol to deputize there isn’t an option for too much longer in my mind. Marc Bartra? Bring back Henrique and use him to deputize across the back line? Those would be my options.

      3 – Jonathon Dos Santos and Thiago are my bets, but Fontas could be an option as well as bringing Botia back from loan. Other less likely options are Victor Vasquez and Gai Assulin

    2. I don’t think thiago or JDS will be promoted next season, In my personal opinion if the b-team do infact get promoted to the B division, then I would prefer we give both players another season to experience the new challenges of the b division before being given a first team contract.

      I do believe that we need a back-up for Alves, I remember numerous occasions this season when we did miss Alves, Puyol is a good back-up but we obviously need a back-up that can contribute a similar attacking ability to Alves, rather then Puyol who can be great in attack don’t get me wrong, but he isn’t built for a role that Alves has.

      on the other hand, If lets say Abidal stays fresh for next season, Maxwell can be an Alves back-up. Also what do people think about Maxwell’s chances of being a possible LW/LM option for next season? and I don’t mean one off oppurtunities but a common choice.

    3. i like ramires a lot, too. here’s what jonathan wilson had to say about him a while back:

      “[…]And once you start to see that, you realise that Ramires, who has had an excellent tournament pounding up and down the right flank, offering deftness as well as energy, could be seen as a modern version of a tornante (literally, a “returner”) who, like Jair in Helenio Herrera’s Internazionale, is a winger who tracks back. Apart from the fact that the back four is flat rather than employing a sweeper, a middle-aged Italian could easily see this Brazil as an incarnation of il giocco all’Italiana. In that regard, Brazil have become a sort of tactical Rorschach test, with everybody seeing in it what they are culturally disposed to see.”

      and speaking about johnny wilson, here’s an article on whether or not possession in football is that important. make of it what you will. please excuse me if this has already been posted.


    1. Highlights of the different categories here *

  14. id prefer to see a;


    why fix somethin if it aint broke?
    it worked so well for the past few games..

    1. I watched the game vs sevilla like two or three days ago and they played as beautiful and offensive as it can be done, all without ibra… bojan has to play again along with messi and win la liga win a goal

    2. That is exactly the lineup I am hoping for. We can throw in Ghost face for a tiring Pedro or Bojan up front in the second half.

  15. btw to continue kxevin’s post regarding ramzi’s post( i somehow cant reply after jnice’s comment)..

    i think of it this way, we should not get cesc this summer.
    we all know he will come back here one day but now is not the time.our midfield is excellent and we have thiago and jds coming up next season.
    so we shouldnt sign him now. let him develop some more at arsenal. no rush!
    what we need is another proven goal scorer(20+ per season)to help messi which is villa.

  16. Now there are rumours about Torres… I bet it’s only a matter of time until we’ll be allegedly closing in on a deal with Rooney 😀

    1. dont forget pato, silva, mata….dont forget cr9.
      he didnt rule out a move to

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